Orthotics: Great Riding Begins with the FeetThere's no question the right pair of snowboard boots can do wonders for your riding, but did you know that even the best pair of boots can be further improved with the addition of a custom foot bed?
Why Do I Need Custom Foot Beds?
Like the tires on a car, the foot is the only thing part of the body that's actually connected to the snowboard. According to Podiatry Channel.com, the human foot and ankle are made up of:
- 26 bones (one quarter of the bones in the human body are in the feet)
- 33 joints
- more than 100 muscles, tendons and ligaments; and
- a network of blood vessels, nerves, skin, and soft tissue.
How Custom Foot Beds Work
Custom foot beds work by supporting the foot in the shape it was originally meant to be. A great way to visualize this is by taking your hand and cupping it over your forearm. Imagine your hand is the arch of your foot. With your hand in the same cupped shape, push down hard on a flat surface (tabletop, counter top, etc.). Notice how your hand is now flat? The same thing happens to the foot when we stand (commonly called the "weighted position"). All feet are not created equal, so the flimsy excuse for foot beds that come with new snowboard boots from the factory have almost zero chance of properly supporting your foot. Because custom foot beds are molded to each rider's foot individually, feet of all shapes and sizes can be properly supported.
By not allowing the foot to flatten and spread out, the proper foot beds can actually make the foot smaller. This in turn allows a better fitting boot, affording the rider more control on the snow. Custom foot beds can also help correct lower body alignment issues, pronation, supination, and a host of other muscle and skeletal issues. It should be noted, however, that riders with severe issues should consult with a podiatrist before having any foot bed built.
Weighted vs. Unweighted Systems
Much debate exists within the boot fitting community as to which system is best. Weighted systems take a mold of the foot with the individual standing up. Supporters of this system claim it leads to a foot bed that supports the foot structurally the way the bones were meant to be. Unweighted systems take a mold of the foot with no weight, usually by using a vacuum-bag molding process. Proponents of this system believe these foot beds will support the foot in its natural, or neutral, position. Suffice to say the debate continues. More important than weighted vs. unweighted is having your foot beds made by a qualified boot fitter.
Where to Have Custom Foot Beds Made
Picking a qualified boot fitter to make custom foot beds is crucial. As with buying snowboard boots, the best way to find a qualified boot fitter is to do some research and ask around. Friends, snowboard instructors, magazines and online snowboarding communities are all great resources in this regard.
While almost all ski shops offer custom foot beds, make sure they understand the difference between skiers and snowboarders before sitting down to have foot beds made. The ultra-stiff shell and sole of a ski boot is vastly different from that of a snowboard boot, as are the movements and range-of-motion requirements of a snowboarder. Don't automatically shy away from ski shops - being an older and more established sport means many of the best boot fitters are currently working at ski shops.
Custom Foot Bed Companies
Companies like Superfeet, Surefoot and others make many different products. Superfeet offers fully customized (molded to your foot) foot beds in several different combinations of materials, as well as trim-to-fit foot beds. Surefoot doesn't offer trim-to-fit models, but does mix and match materials to offer fully custom foot beds at several different price points.
Trim-to-Fit Foot Beds
Trim-to-fit foot beds are a less expensive option. While not customized to your foot, these insoles offer vastly more support than stock snowboard boot insoles. Because of their lower cost, they're a great option for beginners or anyone who may be moving into new boots within a short time.
Foot Bed Prices
Trim-to-fit foot beds can be had for as little as $25 or $30, or for as much as $50. Depending on the shop, any additional work to fit the beds in your boots may cost extra.
Custom foot beds start around $75, with the most expensive models priced upwards of $200. Additional work on custom models is usually included in the price.